So this afternoon, I was out with the chickens, as usual, when something very bizarre happened. Suddenly, JB and Luke both walked away from the group and went back into the coop. Folks, I have been hanging out with these chickens in the grass every single day for nearly nine months (minus a few trips out of town and bouts of inclement weather, of course) – I have NEVER seen the roosters go back inside on their own. Not once. Sure, a pullet will mosey back into the coop while the others are free-ranging, but she almost always goes in to lay an egg. Every once in a while, a rooster will follow her in there, realize that she’s laying, and pop right back out with the group.
Today, while Soup watched the ladies (he was pleased as punch to be alone with them), JB and Luke went in and stayed in. After a few minutes, they both started making excited clucking noises, “buck BUUUUCK buckbuckbuckb buGAWK buck BUUUUUUUUUCK buGAWK!!!” Hmmmm, I thought. Maybe they had cornered a rat? Hey. A girl can dream.
What in the world could they be doing in there? It quieted back down and I heard shuffling and thumping and bumping on the coop walls. It sounded just like when one of the girls is bumping around in a nest, trying to make it perfect for the egg she is planning to lay. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to look. So, I sneaked quietly around to the people doors into the coop, opened them, and peered in. What I saw was the reverse of what is in the above picture. Luke was hunkered down in the corner on the floor under the nests, with his tail in the air, looking for all the world like a hen that is getting ready to lay. JB stood nearby, as if on guard. They were both completely still and quiet. I shook my head in confusion. “Weirdos,” I said, and went back out with the group.
A little while later, the boys were still inside, and I gathered up the flock and ushered them back into the run. I closed the door behind them and they all hopped up on their outdoor perches. They seemed to want to stay away from the weirdos that were inside the coop. I don’t blame them.
I ran inside the house, grabbed my camera (I never learn, do I?), and hustled back out to the coop, assuming that the boys will have resumed normal behavior and my photo op will have passed. Ah, but no. Instead, I found they had switched places. As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, JB was now hunkered down in their man-nest, and Luke was on guard, eying me suspiciously. At this point, they were also making very strange growling noises. It was quite loud and I’m not sure if it was directed at me or not. They growled non-stop until I left the coop. The only other time I’ve heard similar noises from chickens is when the girls are sitting on nests, trying to lay and another chicken (or human) bothers them.
So, this was a long story about nothing. I left them that way, and as far as I know, they’re still at it. Maybe this is like cross-dressing for chickens? Maybe, like a man who secretly wants to wear a dress or carry a purse, my roosters just want to know what it’s like to make a nest, lay an egg, and hatch a chick? I have no clue.
What I do know is that for the past couple of weeks, I have been finding that the straw in most of the nesting boxes has been shoved all the way to the back, and on the floor, there are spots where the shavings have been pushed away, leaving bare floor, surrounded by a ring of shavings. I’m starting to think it’s all part of this strange male nesting behavior. Weird.
I have been asked a few times lately and this has been a topic amongst my fellow chicken-owners and bloggers. The question is – how many eggs are we getting? The weather is colder, the days are shorter and darker, and some of the ladies are in molt. All of these things have put a dent in our egg production.
To refresh your memory (or to get you caught up if you are a new reader), our current chicken population is as follows:
9 Pullets (females under 1 year) total:
Marans (my Gilmore Girls):
- Lorelei – still laying
- Rory – molting, probably not laying
Buff Orpingtons (my Golden Girls):
- Blanche – molting, pobably not laying
- Sophia – still laying
- Lady Banks – molting, probably not laying
- Shelley – molting, probably not laying
- Daisy Mae – still laying
- Pol Pot – still laying
- Pippin – not molting, not sure if she’s laying
Roosters (all Marans):
- Johnny Bravo (JB)
- Chicken Soup
- Luke (Danes… Gilmore Girls, anyone?)
Up until we left for our wedding (first week of October), we were getting 6-9 eggs per day. Since we got back, we’d been getting 3-5. Lately, it’s been more like 2-3 on most days, but still up to 5 now and again. Today I got 2 large blue eggs (Daisy Mae and Pol Pot) and a dark brown one (Lorelei). Yesterday I got a light brown (Sophia) and a dark brown (Lorelei). The day before I got one dark brown, one light brown, and one large blue. These are typical days. If it slows down any more than this, I will consider putting in a light on a timer in the coop. With the heavy cloud cover we’ve been having, it’s pretty dark inside the coop all the time now, and the chickens prefer to be out in the run in the light whenever it’s not raining, poor things.
Our wonderful and amazing neighbors who watch the chickens for us when we’re out of town asked me this weekend if they can have one dozen per week (they want to pay for them, but I won’t take their money because they watch the chickens plus they give us lamb meat from their sheep, fruit from their trees, veggies from their garden, and baked goods from their kitchen, regularly. I could never pay them back.). If don’t get enough production to keep them and us in eggs, then the light will go in.